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Goodin MacBride Wins a Reversal of Public Utilities Commission Decision

Goodin MacBride attorneys recently successfully persuaded the California Court of Appeal to annul a California Public Utilities Commission decision that approved Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s proposed acquisition of a large Northern California power plant.

Representing the Independent Energy Producers Association (IEP), the Goodin MacBride legal team, led by Brian Cragg and including partner Suzy Hong and associate Megan Somogyi, first challenged PG&E’s proposed acquisition of the 586-megawatt Oakley power plant before the California Public Utilities Commission.  IEP opposed PG&E’s request because ownership of generating resources by PG&E, the largest purchaser of electricity, could lead to preferential treatment and distortion of competitive wholesale power markets. 

After the CPUC granted PG&E’s request to acquire the Oakley project, the Goodin MacBride team appealed to the Court, pointing out that the CPUC based its decision only on hearsay evidence, statements made outside of the hearing room that were not vouched for by any witness who could be cross-examined at the hearings and that were not supported by any other evidence.  The Goodin MacBride team also pointed out that the CPUC’s reliance on uncorroborated hearsay evidence had infringed on the substantial rights of the parties as the CPUC expedited its approval of PG&E’s request.

On February 5, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal annulled the CPUC’s decision in The Utility Reform Network v. Public Utilities Commission, __ Cal. App. 4th__; 2014 Cal. App. LEXIS 119.  The Court ruled that the CPUC had unlawfully relied solely on uncorroborated hearsay evidence in reaching its finding of a specific need for the Oakley power plant, despite the presence of contrary direct testimony.

The Court’s rejection of the PUC’s decision means that independent power producers will have a greater opportunity to compete on a fair basis to meet California’s energy needs.

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